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The opposition effect in Saturn’s main rings as seen by Cassini ISS: 4....

Déau, E., L. Dones, M. Mishchenko, R. A. West, P. Helfenstein, M. M. Hedman, and C. C. Porco (2018), The opposition effect in Saturn’s main rings as seen by Cassini ISS: 4. Correlations of the surge morphology with surface albedos and VIMS spectral properties, Icarus, 305, 324-349, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.12.025.

In this paper, we continue our analysis of the saturnian ring opposition effect seen by Cassini ISS. The ring opposition effect is a peak in the rings’ reflectivity caused as the directions from a spot on the rings to the observer and to the light source, respectively, converge toward zero degrees. So far, the exact origin of the ring’s opposition effect is still a matter of debate. In our previous work (Déau, et al., 2013, Icarus, 226, 591–603), we compared the opposition effect morphology with the rings’ optical depth and found that only the slope of the linear part of the rings’ phase curves was strongly correlated with the optical depth. We interpreted this as an indication of the predominant role of interparticle shadowing at moderate phase angles (α ∼ 10–40o ). More recently (Déau, 2015, Icarus, 253, 311–345), we showed that interparticle shadowing cannot explain the behavior at low phase angles (α < 1o ), indirectly confirming our 2013 result. These findings led to the idea that coherent backscattering is preponderant at the smallest phase angles. Coherent backscattering depends on the microscopic scale of the regolith, and there is a growing body of evidence that regolith grain size, porosity, roughness, and composition control the opposition surge behavior for α < 1o . To test this hypothesis, we compare the opposition surge morphology to the regolith albedo and other spectral properties related to the regolith, such as water ice band depths and spectral slopes derived from Cassini VIMS data (Hedman et al., 2013, Icarus, 223, 105–130). Indeed, it has been recently proven that coherent backscattering affects the water ice band depth variations with phase angle for icy saturnian regoliths (Kolokolova et al., 2010, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 711, L71–L74). We find that the opposition surge morphology is strongly correlated with the water ice band depth and the regolith albedo. We interpret this finding as an indication that coherent backscattering plays a role in affecting both the water ice band depths and the opposition surge at low phase angles (α < 1o ). As the regolith albedo and spectral properties are related to the grain size, porosity, roughness, and composition, we try to assess which of these regolith properties are preponderant in coherent backscattering. Our study is able to narrow down the parameter space of these properties, whose values allow a good match between the angular width predicted by models of coherent backscattering and the width of the observed peak.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)